a close up of wastewater
01 November 2023 Type: Blog

What is nutrient neutrality and why is it important when treating wastewater?

Nutrient neutrality refers to the concept of achieving a balance or equilibrium in the input and output of nutrients within a given ecosystem or environment. This concept is particularly applied to manage and mitigate the impacts of excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can lead to environmental problems like eutrophication when present in high concentrations.

  • Input and Output Balance: It involves ensuring that the amount of nutrients added to the environment (such as through fertilisers, wastewater discharge, or other sources) does not exceed the capacity of the ecosystem to process or absorb those nutrients. If more nutrients are introduced than the environment can naturally cycle or use, it can lead to imbalances and negative consequences.

  • Offsetting Excess Nutrients: Achieving nutrient neutrality often involves strategies to offset or mitigate the surplus nutrients. This can include practices like enhancing natural nutrient uptake by vegetation, implementing better agricultural practices to minimise nutrient runoff, improving wastewater treatment to reduce nutrient discharge, and even nutrient recovery for reuse in different applications.

  • Environmental Protection: The aim of nutrient neutrality is to protect ecosystems and water bodies from the harmful effects of nutrient pollution. This includes preventing issues like eutrophication, which can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, reduce biodiversity, and impair water quality.

  • Sustainable Management: Nutrient neutrality aligns with the principles of sustainable resource management by promoting responsible use of nutrients, minimising waste, and ensuring that natural processes can maintain a healthy balance without causing environmental harm.

In essence, nutrient neutrality strives to maintain a harmonious balance between nutrient inputs and outputs in an ecosystem, reducing the negative impacts of excessive nutrient loads and promoting environmental sustainability. Achieving nutrient neutrality often involves a combination of best practices, technological advancements, and policy interventions to manage and regulate nutrient levels effectively.

Nutrient neutrality and wastewater

Nutrient neutrality, in the context of wastewater, refers to the concept of managing and treating wastewater in a way that reduces or offsets the release of nutrients into the environment, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients, while essential for plant growth, can cause significant environmental issues when present in excessive amounts in water bodies. They can lead to eutrophication, where an overabundance of nutrients stimulates the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which can deplete oxygen levels in water, harming aquatic life.

Achieving nutrient neutrality in wastewater treatment is essential to minimise the impact of nutrient pollution on the environment. It requires a combination of efficient treatment processes, regular monitoring, and sometimes policy interventions to ensure proper management of nutrient discharge from various sources, including agricultural runoff, industrial discharges, and municipal wastewater.

Local regulations and environmental policies may also dictate the standards for nutrient levels in treated wastewater released into water bodies to prevent ecological imbalances and maintain water quality.

Nutrient Neutrality Solution

Onunda technology can be applied to new and existing wastewater treatment facilities, as well as various domestic, industrial, and agricultural organic wastes. In all cases, Onunda ensures maximum extraction of value in the form of nutrients and energy and eliminates the need for any waste discharge to the environment. See how Onunda can be applied here.

By deploying Onunda technology in these applications, we are effectively removing a range of biosolid waste products from the current practice of discharging nutrient rich waste materials to land. The application of Onunda technology is therefore an ideal technology application to secure nutrient neutrality offset credits to unlock developments which are currently locked out due to their impacts to the current nutrient balance. Onunda is the ideal technology partner to unlock nutrient neutrality barriers. 

Our innovative technology could also help housebuilders to meet regulations surrounding nutrient neutrality, unlocking previously unavailable sites for development.